M.A. in Mass Communication Program Info
Tracks of Study
The master’s in mass communication program has three major tracks of study. In each track, students are taught to critically examine the role of mass communication in society, and all students are provided with a firm grounding in theory and analysis. By setting high standards for both scholarly and professional achievement, graduates are prepared to be leaders and critical thinkers, no matter what career paths they might take.
- The professional track is designed to educate students for professional careers in public relations, advertising, journalism, broadcast and visual communication/editing/multimedia.
- The mass communication track gives students the background needed for teaching or research.
- The interdisciplinary health communication track provides students with specialized training in the multi-faceted field of health communication and builds expertise for applied practice, academic and research settings.
All residential master’s students are required to take the following two courses:
- JOMC 701: “Mass Communication Research Methods”
- JOMC 740: “Mass Communication Law”
Most students take these classes during the fall semester of their first year. An exception is made for international students, who are advised to take JOMC 740 during the fall semester of their second year.
Early in the program, each master’s student, with his or her adviser, designs a coherent group or path of courses that leads to a specific goal. These courses or paths are usually determined by a career interest and include courses numbered 400 and above both inside and outside the school. All students take at least one 800-level seminar in the school. All of the advanced and path courses are evaluated for consistency with the thesis, series of articles or project that the student does as the capstone for his or her master’s work.
The Professional Track
In addition to JOMC 701 and JOMC 740, students in the professional track are required to take the following courses:
- JOMC 753: “Reporting and Writing News”
(strategic communication students substitute JOMC 732: “Public Relations Writing”)
- JOMC 782: “Multimedia Storytelling”
Professional track students may choose from the following areas of specialization and may take a variety of advanced JOMC courses.
- Business and Media. Prepares students for careers in journalism (business reporters, as well as editors), media management, advertising and public relations. This specialization emphasizes the interchange between the media world and the business world, from how media cover business and economics to the evolving nature of media as a business and new media business models. Required courses: JOMC 452: “Business Reporting” and JOMC 551: “Digital Media Economics and Behavior.”
- Electronic Communication. Prepares students for careers in radio, television and related industries. Students learn all the aspects of generating and delivering content for electronic media platforms. Students leave the program with advanced skills in writing for electronic media, and audio/video acquisition and editing. The capstone experiences are the award-winning television newscast “Carolina Week” and the award-winning radio newscast “Carolina Connection,” where students fill a range of reporting and production roles. Required courses: JOMC 421: “Electronic Journalism” and JOMC 422: “Producing Television News.”
- Medical and Science Journalism. Prepares students to work as medical and science journalists. Applicants have the option of pursuing either a multimedia/audio/video track or print track. Students also take at least two courses in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. In the last semester of the second year, students have the option of doing either a traditional research thesis or a thesis project in any media (print, radio, television or any combination of all three). Required courses: JOMC 560: “Medical Journalism” and JOMC 562: “Science Documentary Television.”
- Reporting. Prepares students for careers in all facets of reporting, including research, analysis, writing and editing. Applicants who intend to specialize in reporting should possess an insatiable curiosity about the world. They should exhibit a strong interest in the changing media landscape and the possibilities for exploring and explaining complex issues to news consumers. Required courses: JOMC 754: “Specialized Reporting” and one cross-platform such as JOMC 463: “Newsdesk” or JOMC 484: “Information Graphics.”
- Strategic Communication. Prepares students for careers leading to management positions in corporations, nonprofit organizations, government or advertising or public relations agencies. Students with this specialization take skills and theory courses in public relations and/or advertising as well as outside areas of interest, including business, organizational communication and health communication. Required courses: JOMC 732: “Public Relations Writing” and JOMC 830: “Seminar in Public Relations.” JOMC 730: “Public Relations Foundations” or comparable advertising course required. Students exempt from JOMC 753: “Reporting and Writing News.”
- Visual Communication/Editing/Multimedia. Prepares students for careers in publication design/editing, graphics, photojournalism and multimedia. In this specialization, issues related to the research, reporting and presentation of visual media are explored, with an emphasis on the technical skills required to create compelling stories. Required courses: JOMC 581: “Multimedia Design” and JOMC 584: “Documentary Multimedia Storytelling.” Students exempt from Multimedia Storytelling.
The Mass Communication Track
In addition to JOMC 701 and JOMC 740, students in the mass communication track are required to take JOMC 705: “Theories of Mass Communication.”
Paths in the mass communication track can be very diverse. Students learn the theory and research methods they need to teach at the college level or to pursue a doctorate in mass communication. They can study mass communication law or history, media effects, new communication technologies or international communication, among other subjects. Depending on the course of study they select, they may also be prepared for a variety of research positions in the public and private sectors. Students in this track do not take professional skills courses such as news writing and editing.
The IHC master’s track offers a broadened program to include the study of how to effectively communicate with diverse audiences about health issues. Students will learn about the possibilities of traditional as well as electronic forms of media and the psychology of persuasion. Each student will complete a project or thesis on a health communication topic.
The Interdisciplinary Health Communication track includes a core of 18 credits in journalism and mass communication and nine credits in information science, psychology and public health.
In addition to the core curriculum, students in the IHC master's track are required to complete a sequence of courses in an area of specialization. Four specializations are offered: information science, medical and science journalism, public health and social marketing.
The dual degree program is intended to create an efficient yet academically sound program of study for students interested in pursuing graduate studies in journalism and mass communication, and in law. The program is intended for students who plan to practice mass communication law, plan to practice professionally in a communication-related field such as journalism or public relations with a law-related emphasis, plan to pursue academic careers in law and mass communication fields, or plan to pursue a doctorate in a related field.
Graduate courses carry grades of "H" (clear excellence), "P" (entirely satisfactory), "L" (low passing) and "F" (failing). For any undergraduate course that is 400-level or above, assigned grades must be at the graduate level. For any undergraduate course below 400-level (some basic foundation courses or specialization courses might fall into this category), assigned grades are at the undergraduate level (A, B, C, D or F). Courses that are 200-level and above in the UNC School of Law qualify as graduate-level courses. Any master’s student who receives an “L” in a required JOMC course must pass a comprehensive exam given the following semester or retake the course. If a student retakes the course and again makes an “L,” the student may not continue in the program. Continued funding is based on a student’s satisfactory progress in his or her coursework and satisfactory performance in the assistantship. Satisfactory performance in the assistantship will be determined by the associate dean for graduate studies in consultation with the student’s assistantship supervisor, the student’s adviser and the M.A. Director.
All students must pass the appropriate examinations, which include a comprehensive written examination covering the material in the student’s path courses. All course work must be completed before a student may take his or her path exams, which generally are administered in February of the second year of study. Each student must also pass an oral examination on the thesis or professional project, given by the student's advisory committee.
Thesis, articles or project
In the mass communication track, a student must complete a traditional research thesis. In the professional track, a student has the option of writing a thesis or presenting a professional-quality series of articles or project. The articles or project requires the same effort and professionalism as the thesis. In addition to the professional product itself, the articles or project option requires an extensive review of the literature and statement of methods.
Students enroll in JOMC 993: “Master’s Thesis” or JOMC 992: “Non-Traditional Thesis” for three credits as they write the thesis or the professional equivalent. If additional time is needed to complete the thesis, the student enrolls for three more credit hours of JOMC 992 or JOMC 993 as needed. A maximum of three thesis credits can be counted toward the credits required for the master’s degree.
Length of program
Most students complete the master’s program in two years, typically attending classes full-time during three consecutive semesters and completing the thesis, articles or project in the fourth semester. Some students take a semester off to work as interns in other cities; others stay on during the summer to complete course work or their theses, articles or special projects. Although it is possible to complete the degree by taking classes part-time, it is not recommended. Students who want to pursue the degree part-time must receive permission from the director of the master’s program.
Master’s students must complete the degree within five years of admission to the program.